Hey Mambo! Mambo Italiano! New Yorkas can remember a time in Little Italy when you couldn’t walk down famed Mulberry Street without being accosted by restaurant barkers shoving menus in your face all claiming to have the best manicotti this side of the Atlantic. This Italian scene was naturally set to the oh-so-familiar sounds of Mob Hits from the 1950s with a backdrop of Red, White, and Green flags proudly draping the storefronts and alleys as the unmistakable scent of fresh Cannolis consumed the air. But now… it appears this Little Italy hot spot has revitalized and evolved taking us from gaudy to posh.
As reported by the New York Post, there certainly has been rapid changes. “The past year has seen at least a half-dozen buzzy new spots debut on Mulberry Street — some Italian, others not, but almost all catering to a young, hip scene.” One of those anticipated hotsy totsy new comers is Le Baron, which is slated to open it’s exclusive doors at 32 Mulberry St. next month. The Post commented about the upcoming opening. “An outpost of the notoriously exclusive Paris nightclub, the trés cool import is expected to attract a crowd of slumming A-list celebs à la the Beatrice Inn.”
Also, rumblings have been confirmed that the Mondrian Hotel located a few blocks west on Crosby St. should have that coveted liquor license for their new ground floor bar all set commencing perfectly time-wise with NY Fashion Week. The Post pointed out that given all the pioneering hot spot investors in the neighborhood, Little Italy is starting to look like the beginnings of what happened in the now trendy Meatpacking District (Which given the name… I’m guessing you can gather it wasn’t always the place to be if you weren’t a cow being butchered).
Here’s a quick lesson for those of you that like your Little Italy history in cliff note form. In an interview with the Post, landlord of Mulberry Project and Cafe Palermo owner, John “Baby John” DeLutro (known in this neighborhood as the “Cannoli King”), explained how the streets over time seemed less Italian and more Asian. And this guy is certainly the authority given the 56 year old was “born on Mulberry Street and attended school at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral at the corner of Prince.” Come to think of it, I don’t recall any hospitals between the cappuccino corners. Hmm… tough mom! He said, “Years ago, growing up, there was all Italians here. When our grandparents came to this country they bought these buildings for $20,000 or $30,000. Then the Chinese came along and bought these buildings for $100,000. Now, the neighborhood is all hippies, yuppies, whatever you want to call them.”
Some believe that change is most apparent with the inclusion of the successful year old Torrisi Italian Specialties which is a deli by day and fine dining by night. It happens to be located across the street from the Ravenite Social Club where John Gotti used to – ya know – take care of things. Speaking of John Gotti, his son, John “Junior” Gotti recently broke bread with actor John Travolta in Brentwood, CA, to discuss playing Gotti’s father in an upcoming mob biopic that depicts how the crime boss evaded prosecution eventually earning him the nickname, “Teflon Don.” Now I know the meeting took place 3000 miles away from Mulberry give or take a block… but I’ll tell you one thing Paisan, it doesn’t get any more Italian than that!
No matter what happens to the neighborhood, we all know that change is, has always been, and will always be, inevitable. But every time I’m there, “I eat antipasta twice just because she is so nice”…which of course I do “my way.”Tags: Italian, John Gotti, John Travolta, Little Italy, Mulberry Street, New York, New York City